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Teen text-rage victim showing signs of recovery

Hilda Gotay is hopeful after her 15-year-old daughter, Josie Lou Ratley, showed signs of recovery Easter Sunday, weeks since allegedly being beaten over text messages, but said Wednesday: “I want my baby the way she was.”
/ Source: TODAY contributor

The mother of a Florida girl who was stomped almost to death by another teen is still waiting to hear that the family of her daughter’s attacker regrets what happened.

Hilda Gotay choked back tears as she told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Thursday that she wonders if the parents of 15-year-old Wayne Treacy “have any remorse. Do they have any feelings? Do they think about Josie?”

According to police, three weeks ago, Treacy viciously attacked Josie Lou Ratley, 15, as she was waiting for a school bus at Deerfield Beach Middle School in Florida’s Broward County. After slamming her head into the concrete pavement, police say, he kicked Ratley’s head as many as seven times with steel-toed boots before being pulled off by a teacher.

Police say the two had exchanged increasingly hostile text messages about Treacy’s romantic relationship with 13-year-old Kayla Manson, who was also a friend of Ratley’s. When Ratley texted something about the suicide of Treacy’s brother, Treacy became enraged and vowed to kill her. He attacked her after Manson pointed her out for him at the bus stop, police say.

Signs of recoveryOn Tuesday, Treacy’s attorney, Russell Williams, said at a court hearing that his client regrets what happened. “He’s absolutely devastated,” Williams said.

But Gotay told Vieira: “It was the lawyer. I have not heard anything from the family at all.”

Doctors had to remove a piece of Ratley’s skull to cope with swelling in her brain. They put her in a medically induced coma and only recently took her off the drugs that kept her in the coma.

Her mother reported from Fort Lauderdale that Ratley is moving in her bed and showing the first signs that she may be regaining consciousness. The encouraging signs on Sunday have been referred to as an “Easter miracle.”

“She’s doing great. She’s moving, and her eyes are opening,” Gotay said from Fort Lauderdale, where she remains at her daughter’s bedside. The girl remains unaware of her surroundings. “She doesn’t respond to commands yet,” Gotay said.

Doctors are unable to predict how well Ratley will be able to recover. She suffered brain damage and will require extensive therapy when she regains consciousness.

Gotay intends to be the first person her daughter sees when she awakes.

‘I want my baby the way she was’“I want my baby to know I’m here for her and I love her, and I want her to know that I’m going to try my best to give her the most protection I can so this doesn’t happen to her again,” the emotional mom said.

Vieira asked Gotay if she’s concerned that her daughter will be permanently damaged by the attack.

“Sure, I’m worried. I want my baby the way she was,” the mother replied.

Deerfield Beach is the same middle school attended by Michael Brewer, the teen who was doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire by classmates last October. Brewer and Ratley had shared two classes, and Brewer has visited her in the hospital, explaining, “She’s my friend.”

Though Brewer was burned over two-thirds of his body, his recovery has outpaced his doctors’ expectations.

‘Getting the message out’Brewer was attacked in a dispute over a $40 video game. Ratley was beaten over a teen romance. Both incidents shocked and galvanized the community.

Gotay’s lawyer, Rick Freedman, joined her on TODAY and talked about the issues that the attack on Ratley has raised.

“We’ve learned over the past three weeks that things are different with the 21st century technology. Us as parents don’t completely understand it,” Freedman said. “None of us have sat around the kitchen table and talked to our kids about the proper etiquette in terms of how to post on Facebook and how to send a text message. With the nonverbal communications people are sending, that can result in you getting beaten to within an inch of your death.”

Freedman said that the community has come together since the attack in an effort to prevent similar incidents in the future.

“We’ve been getting that message out. The community is responding,” he said. “Josie’s attack is a horrible thing, but if there’s something positive that can come out of it, it’s that everybody in this community’s now talking about it and saying, ‘What can we do about it and how can we address the situation?’ ”